January 28, 2020 - Tuesday
Website Name Image
Weather icon
26.85 ℃, Overcast clouds
Davao City, Philippines

Sorry Sen. Hontiveros, ain’t no such thing

August 24, 2019 - Saturday 4:08 AM by E.R. Nartatez

Article Banner Image

“One word of truth outweighs the entire world.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

There’s much noise surrounding the recent kerfuffle at a QC mall when a transwoman (biological man self-identifying as a woman), Gretchen Diez, got into trouble for insisting on using the Ladies’ toilet. Since the incident, several prominent public officials have made very strong statements against the treatment Diez received.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, vocal proponent of “progressive” policies, condemned the incident as an act of discrimination against the trans community and vowed to extend “whatever help (Diez) would need to seek justice." 

This is a hot button topic, and I’ve touched on some of the controversial issues in my previous piece. For this article, I’d like to focus on a statement Sen. Hontiveros’ made that caught my attention. 

In defense of Diez, Sen. Hontiveros said, "She (Diez) is being harassed for living her truth.” 

Living “her” truth? Why not simply, “Living the truth”? This phrase has actually been doing the rounds lately. In last year’s Golden Globe Awards, Oprah WInfrey made a similar statement that gained some attention; she said, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

“Speaking your truth”? Why not simply “speaking the truth”? If something is true, then it’s simply true; it’s not mine, not yours, not anybody else’s. I think it’s critically relevant—in this context and beyond—to recognize that “truth” is, as Byron Tau (Wall Street Journal writer) said, “a shared set of common facts.” The ramifications of this are huge!

Tau responded to Oprah in a tweet, “Oprah employed a phrase that I've noticed a lot of other celebrities using these days: "your truth" instead of "the truth." Why that phrasing? "Your truth" undermines the idea of a shared set of common facts.” 

Tau is correct. It’s important to recognize the truth that we do live in a shared reality; we’re all huddled together in this ‘pale blue dot’ called earth, we all bleed red blood, we’re all mortals, and so forth.

But what is “truth”? It’s fair to say that in some circles, “truth” is barely surviving. Many today take Francis Bacon’s ‘jesting Pilate’ attitude to truth. Pilate interrogates Jesus, and Jesus answers, “I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” Bacon then paints Pilate’s response, 

“What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.” (Reference from John 18:38.)

Let’s not be like Pilate; let’s explore the question. I’ll address the question of truth in a straightforward way, i.e., a way that’s relevant in navigating the day to day affairs of life (avoiding the philosophical technicalities of epistemology, ontology, and the other “gies”).

The first thing we need to grasp is the simplicity of truth. It’s not a mystery or an enigma. Dallas Willard states that a “statement is deemed to be true if what the statement either claims or refers to is accurately represented.” The best way to nail the point is by an example.

You’re conversing with your friend, George, about dogs. He says, “I have a pet dog; it’s black and we call it ‘Blacky’.” But you’re skeptical about George’s claim because he’s never mentioned this to you before. You investigate. You verify his claim of owning a pet—a black dog named ‘Blacky’. Uninvited, you visit and carefully check your friend’s house. You discover either that Blacky the black dog is real, therefore your friend told the truth, or he lied—there’s not even a dog in the house! 

Simple. Note that when we navigate day to day life, we don’t engage in abstruse questions such as, “But what is ‘dogness’ or ‘blackness’? Is ‘black’ a color? Is color even real? Or what does “have” mean in your claim to ‘have a dog’?” In a philosophical class these questions are fair game, but not in the trenches of daily living. Try subjecting your friends to such abstruseness and watch as they quickly ‘unfriend’ you!

Truth in daily life is simple and necessary for both survival and flourishing. 

Secondly, truth/reality remain whether we like it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not. What makes a statement true is the truth. We don’t create truth by speaking it, feeling it, or believing it—it’s truth alone that makes something true. Truth is independent of our speaking, feeling, or believing.

No matter how insistent George is in claiming, feeling, and believing that he owns a black dog named Blacky, truth will prove him false if he does not actually own one. As Willard states, “Truth is based on evidence and therefore is unyielding to one’s professions or propositions regarding the truth.” 

However, it’s true that “belief does have an effect on how we perceive reality, even if our perceptions may not, in fact, match up with reality.” (D. Willard) And thus, statements such as “his/her truth”, or “true for me, not for you” or vice versa, can be quite dangerous. A recent case powerfully illustrates this.

Andy Signore, popular YouTube channel creator, was accused of serious and repeated sexual assaults by April O'Donnell. For a year his name was dragged through piles and piles of garbage by relentless accusations in the internet and social media—and this was at the very opening salvo of the MeToo movement! 

But irrefutable evidence soon came out (extensive exchange of messages between Signore and O’Donnell) clearly showing the relationship and encounters were mutual and consensual. O’Donnell could not refute the evidence and brushed it aside by saying, “at the end of the day I know my truth and what I did was right.”*

Sorry Ms. O’Donnell, when your “my truth” does not stand up to hard evidence and reality, it ain’t so.

This justifies Joseph A. Wulfsohn’s strong criticism against Oprah’s “your truth”. He wrote, “not only is using the term “your truth” wrong; it’s dangerous… (because when) we rely on ‘our truths,’ we get to choose what to believe.” 

As the list of “genders” grows (Tumblr’s list 112), it’s critically important to remind ourselves of some verifiable facts of biological science.

The condition known as “gender dysphoria”—a state or condition of alienation from one’s body, e.g., a biological man (complete with male sexual anatomy), but thinks, feels, and insists he’s a woman (transwoman)—is real.  

But biology is clear; human sexuality is binary, a duality of male and female. Biology and the physical body determine a person’s sexual identity based on physical traits (including chromosomes, reproductive anatomy, and sex hormones). And more than 99% of the time people identify with their biological sex.

In biology, reproduction is the rule. Human nature requires a binary to produce offspring, reproduction requires a male/man (having xy chromosomes) and a female/woman (having xx chromosomes).

A congenital abnormality known as “intersex” is real but very rare (1 in 2,000 births). Conditions exist where the physical anatomy may not match the chromosome, or that a baby appears to have both male and female anatomies. 

According to PubMed.gov (US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health), “the true prevalence of intersex is seen to be about 0.018%” (contra the claim that it’s around 1.7%).” 

This data is relevant in the current discussion on who gets to use which toilet. The socio-political structures should reflect the overwhelming majority (without dismissing the concerns of the minority). Biologically segregated restrooms for women should be exclusive for biological women. This is not “discrimination” but a matter of respecting their biological space and privacy. 

This social structure should not be altered due to the insistence of a small minority. 

This is the reason I’m convinced that providing an all-gender restroom is still the proper option to deal with the concern.